UNO reversed the result of its biggest loss of the season, with a solid defensive effort, second-half composure, big points from Ericka House and a big night by Taijhe Kelly.
The Mavericks outscored Western Illinois 12-4 over the final 412 minutes for a 63-55 victory Thursday night before 402 at Sapp Fieldhouse, beating a team that had handed them a 71-44 shellacking in Macomb, Ill., on Jan. 12.
“To be plus-8 vs. a negative almost 30, that’s a pretty good turnaround,” UNO coach Chance Lindley said. “We kept our composure pretty well. They’re a good team and very well-coached. But we handled those runs and made some of our own as well.”
After leading for all but the opening minutes and by as many as 12 points, UNO found itself tied 51-51 with 4:43 left in the game.
But House scored seven straight UNO points — capped with a 3-pointer off a set play that made it 58-52 with 1:50 left.
“Coach told me the second half that I needed to keep being aggressive, so I applied that,” said House, a junior guard known for her 3-point marksmanship.
House also grabbed an offensive rebound in the late flurry — just her eighth of the year — which led to her fifth and sixth free throws of the year.
“I was kind of shocked,” House said.
Despite her low rebound and free throw totals, Lindley said the 5-foot-9 House is becoming more of a complete player as the season progresses.
“She really has started to branch out her game,” Lindley said.
Speaking of which, Kelly continued expanding her game with a 10-point, 13-rebound, seven-blocked shot performance.
“I feel like I’ve got the rebounding mojo back,” Kelly said. “It’s helping me play a lot better.”
Kelly’s seven blocks tied the school record set by Laura J. Anderson in 1985 and matched by Ashley Nelson in 2010.
“I’ve always wanted to get the record, so I was kind of going for it,” Kelly said. “But as long as I stay on the ground and get the blocks, it’s working out very well.”
Over the last three games, the 6-4 sophomore has averaged 9.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks. For the season she averages 5.1, 4.8 and 2.1.
“As a staff, we forget sometimes that she is only a sophomore,” Lindley said. “She’s playing with four seniors and we expect a lot out of her, but she’s still young.
“She said she wants it more, but I think she’s just playing with more confidence. She’s done some extra things in the gym, and she’s earned — and deserves — the success she’s having right now.”
Paige Frauendorfer’s three-point play with 1:01 to go made it 61-52 and all but clinched it for UNO (16-7 overall, 6-5 Summit), which is in fourth place in the league but just one game behind second-place IUPUI, which visits Saturday.
Frauendorfer scored 23 points, House had 14, and Carolyn Blair-Mobley had 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Jackie Rieger scored 13 points and Charnelle Reed scored 10 for Western Illinois (10-13, 3-7), which couldn’t match its 27-point win in the first meeting. The Mavs’ other six losses have been by an average of seven points, with none by more than 11.
“We just came out and weren’t very active,” Lindley said of the first meeting. “We were kind of flat. We just weren’t us. All year, defense is what we do.
“We started out that game not setting the tone defensively, then it carried over to the offensive end, and it went from bad to worse.”
That wasn’t the case Thursday, as UNO used a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead at 19-9 and led by at least three points for the rest of the first half.
“I think we came out real lax on our defense the first time,” House said.
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